Travel from historical Hanoi to modern Ho Chi Minh City

Capture the spirit of magical Vietnam on this compact tour from the colonial charm of Hanoi to the hustle and bustle of Ho Chi Minh City. Sip coffee with locals in Hanoi and shop up a storm in the Old Quarter, cruise along emerald waters on a Halong Bay boat trip, travel through old-world Hue and Hoi An, and get lost in the hustle and bustle of Ho Chi Minh City. This is an adventure full of beauty and contrast that introduces Vietnam as a country of incredible food, lively locals, stunning scenery and cosmopolitan cities.

Start
Hanoi, Vietnam
Finish
Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam
Countries
Vietnam
Themes
Explorer
Code
TVSF
Physical rating
Cultural rating
Ages
Min 15
Group size
Min 1 Max 16
Carbon offset
418kg pp per trip


Highlights

  • The bustling markets, tree-lined boulevards and peaceful lakes of Hanoi are a great introduction to modern Vietnam
  • Sail among the floating villages, grottos and limestone pillars of magical Halong Bay
  • Explore the old imperial capital of Hue in typical Vietnamese fashion - on the back of a motorbike
  • Ho Chi Minh City, once known as Saigon, is a dynamic blend of old and new, east and west, commerce and culture
  • Often referred to as the ‘rice bowl’ of Vietnam, cruise the waterways of the Mekong Delta in sampan boats and sample exotic fruits and fish

Itinerary

Welcome to Vietnam. Your adventure begins with a welcome meeting at 6 pm. Please look for a note in the hotel lobby or ask reception where it will take place. We'll be collecting insurance details and next of kin information at this meeting, so please ensure you bring these details to provide to your leader.

If you arrive early into the capital of Hanoi, there’s plenty to see and do. Consider booking the Hanoi Highlights Urban Adventure with an expert local guide to introduce you to the city. Start by visiting the Temple of Literature, drop into a traditional tea house, and learn the stories of the Hoa Lo Prison museum. This tour concludes at Hoan Kiem Lake, surrounded by modern office buildings and ancient Buddhist temples. Or take it at your own pace and wander the Old Quarter and admire the city’s French-colonial architecture, relax in a park, or enjoy some street food.

Notes: If you can't arrange a flight that will arrive in time for the group meeting, you may wish to arrive a day early so you're able to attend and have time to explore Hanoi. We'll be happy to book additional accommodation for you (subject to availability). If you're going to be late, please inform the hotel reception or your booking agent in advance.
Travel by private minibus to the spectacular World Heritage site of Halong Bay in the Gulf of Tonkin (approximately four hours). The bay is dotted with sandy coves, grottos and 1,600 limestone islands, which have been formed over millennia by wind and water erosion. Board a private boat and cruise the bay, exploring island caves and perhaps even enjoying a swim in the South China Sea. To end the day, spend a peaceful night aboard the boat beneath the night sky.

The sailing junk has twin share cabins with air-conditioning and private facilities. There's also a dining room and bar to enjoy lunch, dinner and breakfast.

Notes: Due to recent unforeseen changes by local authorities in Halong Bay, a large proportion of boats are no longer permitted to stay in the bay overnight, resulting in a shortage of boats. To ensure all Intrepid travellers can enjoy the experience of a night on the water, we’re occasionally using a larger boat (with approximately 12 cabins) or splitting groups across different vessels. An Intrepid group leader will be present on each boat, and the route taken and inclusions on board will remain the same.

Your leader will discuss the option for swimming from Ti Tip Island beach during the warmer months. Swimming in the bay from the boats is not permitted.
Return by boat to Ha Long, and at approximately midday travel by bus back to Hanoi. Arrive late this afternoon, and use free time to shop, explore the sights or just relax. Later tonight board an overnight train to Hue.

Notes: There are shared hotel rooms available this afternoon if you would like to freshen up or organise your luggage.

Sleeper trains typically have four-berth compartments (occasionally six berths depending on the season), which have bench seats that convert into sleeping bunks. A sheet, pillow and blanket are provided (although some travellers prefer to bring their own sleeping sheet). Most trains have a dining carriage serving simple food, but you may like to stock up on some food supplies before departure.
Arrive into Hue at approximately 11 am and transfer to the hotel.

Once the imperial capital of Vietnam, Hue holds the treasures of the country’s royal past. You’ll have free time in the morning to rest or explore. The bustling Dong Ba Market is a great place to sample some of the foods that once graced the Nguyen emperors' tables, such as banh khoai (royal rice cake). Reunite with the group to visit the war-damaged ruins of the Hue Imperial Citadel complex, which once contained temples, state houses and the emperor’s palace.
Today, tour the sights of Hue on the back of a motorbike driven by a local guide. Explore the ruins of the Forbidden Purple City, once reserved for the personal use of the Emperor and his concubines, but almost totally destroyed during the Vietnam/American War. Visit the 17th-century active Buddhist monastery of Thien Mu Pagoda. During the visit you’ll see the car of a former monk who drove to Saigon in 1963 to set himself alight to protest the poor treatment of Buddhists by the South Vietnamese regime.

Enjoy a short boat cruise down the Perfume River before eating lunch inside a nunnery. Finally, visit the lakeside royal tomb of Emperor Tu Duc before heading back to Hue.

Notes: For those who do not wish to ride on the back of a motorbike, please let you leader know and they will arrange a car.
Also, boats for the Perfume River trip may not be available if you’re travelling during festival periods. During these times you’ll travel by land to reach the activities instead.
This morning travel by bus through coastal rice paddies and the spectacular Hai Van Pass. After a brief visit to My Khe Beach (China Beach), arrive into Hoi An. Recently declared a World Heritage site, Hoi An was a major international trading port during the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries. Today, parts of the beautifully preserved town retain the feel of centuries past. It's also a shopping mecca, famous for its plethora of tailors. On arrival your leader will take you on a sightseeing walk through the Old Town and visit a handful of the city's major attractions. You’ll will also be given a sightseeing pass so you can further explore select attractions at your leisure.
Today is a free day to explore Hoi An. Browse the town’s cobbled streets and art galleries, or hire a bike and cycle through rice paddies out to Cua Dai Beach. Shop for paintings, ceramics and colourful cloth lanterns in the town’s markets and preserved Chinese shop houses. Perhaps visit one of the hundreds of tailors in the city to get something special made. Hoi An is also known for its delicious regional food, so be sure to enjoy a meal at a riverside restaurant or perhaps partake in a cooking class.
Today take a short early morning flight to Ho Chi Minh City. Formerly known as Saigon, Ho Chi Minh City has a fascinating history and is arguably Vietnam’s capital of commerce and culture. After landing, check in to your hotel and then take a sightseeing bus tour around the city. Pass the Reunification Palace, Notre Dame Cathedral and the Opera House, stopping in at the War Remnants Museum to discover some of the sobering stories of the Vietnam/American War.
This morning head out on a day trip to explore the Mekong Delta. Board a boat to Ben Tre to visit a coconut candy factory and sample their sweet products. On a tuk-tuk tour around the remote village, learn about local rural life and stop to sample tropical fruits. Eat lunch at a restaurant in the heart of the delta, sampling regional specialties such as the famous Elephant Ear fish. Afterwards, paddle in sampans (small rowing boats) past water coconut trees along the Mekong, and then board a private boat to cruise the delta’s major waterways to My Tho. After the cruise return via bus to Ho Chi Minh City.

Enjoy a final group dinner at KOTO restaurant, an organisation dedicated to developing the hospitality careers of street kids.
Your trip ends after breakfast today. There are no activities included and you’re free to depart your accommodation at any time. For those who are staying on and want to explore Ho Chi Minh City further, check out our Urban Adventure day trips.
View trip notes to read full itinerary

Inclusions

Meals
8 breakfasts, 3 lunches, 2 dinners
Transport
Boat, Overnight sleeper train, Plane, Private Bus, Private minibus, Private vehicle, Taxi
Accommodation
Hotel (7 nights), Overnight boat (1 night), Overnight sleeper train (1 night)
Included activities
  • Halong Bay - Overnight boat cruise
  • Hue - Imperial citadel
  • Hue - Perfume river cruise and Thien Mu Pagoda
  • Hue - Royal tomb
  • Hue - Motorbike trip including lunch
  • Hoi An - Ancient town guided walk and entrance ticket
  • Ho Chi Minh City - War Remnants Museum
  • HCMC - City tour
  • HCMC - Mekong Delta day trip including Coconut Candy Factory and Village Tuk Tuk tour
  • HCMC - KOTO dinner

Dates

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Important notes

1. Passport Details: Please provide your full name exactly as per passport at the time of booking (including any middle names listed on your passport), for internal flights and train tickets. Ticketing fees may apply for amendments to details within 45 days of departure, and in some cases you will be required to cover the cost of issuing a new ticket.
2. A single supplement is available on this trip, please refer to 'Your Fellow Travellers' section of the Trip Notes for excluded nights.

Trip notes

Want an in-depth insight into this trip? Your trip notes provide a detailed itinerary, visa info, how to get to your hotel, what’s included - pretty much everything you need to know about this adventure and more.

View trip notes

Reviews

Our Vietnam Express Southbound trips score an average of 4.82 out of 5 based on 575 reviews in the last year.

Vietnam Express Southbound , May 2016

Vietnam Express Southbound , April 2016

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